What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson, Tony Wolak, Tim Neral, and Raymond Harrison are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
The suspension of leagues around the world took everyone by surprise. “Unprecedented” has become very common in recent days to describe vast reaches that illness has touched. As more and more news comes out, it has become clear that this won’t end as quickly as we all had hoped. There is a semi-daunting feeling of the season being canceled as a whole like the ECHL, OHL, USHL and more.
Through all of it, however, the hockey community, along with many others worldwide, have stepped up to support “their own.” Players, teams, and ownership have not only reached out financially to those in need but have done their best to issue words of encouragement.
In what was a rather awful season for the Detroit Red Wings, looking back there are a few shining moments fans and the team can take away. Should the season end here, it wasn’t a total loss for the Red Wings. Great strides were made organizationally, individually, and within the structure of the team.
The Grind Line wanted to bring a little positivity to the hockey world, as it were. We wanted to pick a few glistening moments Detroit had in their all together lack-luster season.
Rachel Anderson: Taking Down Tampa
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been a rival of Detroit for some time. The Red Wings had been unable to solve them in regulation for the last five seasons and just prior to the suspension, the cracked them.
The best thing about the March 8 showdown against Tampa was seeing the top line, who started the season with such promise, take charge. Between Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Robby Fabbri, they tallied 11 points on the night. In such a season, seeing the individuals continue to improve despite exterior troubles is encouraging.
Seeing the perseverance and determination of the entire team on display that night was exciting. Sure, we all knew that it wouldn’t improve the season as a whole, but it was a silver lining. The team needs younger players to step up and take charge, and they did.
The Red Wings have shown sparks of fight this season and defeating Tampa in regulation, at last, was evidence of that. They’re not dead yet and are willing to step up and do what it takes to make the organization thrive again. The best part of it all is the timely defeat was handed to the Lightning in front of a rambunctious Detroit crowd. The fans are still behind them and I think that will continue to have much to do with their future success.
Tim Neral: Bernier Buries Bruins
When teams have terrible seasons, it is often hard to unearth a bright spot. No such problems with this year’s Wings.
It’s easy to forget the top line of Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Matha started the 2019 campaign as the hottest trio in hockey, registering 20 points in their first four games, including a four-goal performance from Mantha in the team’s opener.
However, when teams are struggling, goaltending often resembles Atlas trying to keep the world from falling. For a stretch, Jonathan Bernier was up to the task.
From Dec. 12 to Feb. 6, Bernier recorded a 1.97 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in 13 games. The creme de la creme came on the road against one of the league’s hottest teams, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins carried the play but Bernier held the fort, stopping 40 of 41. The Red Wings’ penalty kill nullified four Boston power plays while the Wings offense converted a gorgeous opportunity set up by Larkin and Bertuzzi to Andreas Athanasiou, who notched his first goal in 20 games in a 3-1 win.
Raymond Harrison: Anthony Mantha’s Four-Goal Game
For my favorite moment, we have to go back to the second game of the season. It was Oct. 6, the Red Wings’ home opener against the Dallas Stars. After tallying three points in the first game of the season, Anthony Mantha came through with the best individual performance of his career.
The Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period, and things were looking bleak for the beleaguered Red Wings. Mantha got them on the board with a power-play goal 48 seconds into the second period and then tied the contest about nine minutes later.
Just 15 seconds into the third period, he put the Red Wings in front by poking a puck past Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin. Finally, with the game tied 3-3 with just a minute remaining, Mantha drove home another one-timer for his fourth goal of the night.
Not only was it an exciting win for the hometown fans, but it was also a sign that Mantha had arrived as a star power forward. While his season ultimately became derailed by injuries, that moment proved that he was capable of dominating a game on any given night.
Tony Wolak: Montreal Canadiens Season Sweep
The Red Wings did not win many games this season, but their Feb. 18 home win against the Montreal Canadiens was one of the most entertaining. In addition to being a gutsy, come-from-behind victory, Detroit’s win also clinched a season sweep of their division rivals. (from ‘Detroit Red Wings own Canadiens, sweep season series with 4-3 win,’ Detroit Free Press, 02/18/2020)
For context, 23% of Detroit’s wins this season came against Montreal. How do you think Canadiens fans feel about that? “Not good, Bob.”
For me, it was a brief return to glory. The Red Wings don’t sweep teams very often these days. Plus, it was great to see the team dig deep and mount a comeback. Usually, they fold after facing some adversity. It’s progress, even if that’s just one small step forward.
And selfishly, this victory boosted the trade value of Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green, who combined to score all three third-period goals. With the trade deadline on the horizon and knowing that the Red Wings would be selling, the writing was on the wall that Athanasiou and Green would be dealt soon. Seeing them step up in a crucial moment was an added bonus for Red Wings fans.
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.